Here are some old-time Upper West Side crime reports we found while browsing through the New York Times’ archives.
April 17, 1901: A burglar was using a rope ladder to steal from townhouses on the Upper West Side. Police “received no fewer than a dozen complaints from the residents of fashionable houses on the Upper West Side that their houses have either been robbed or that they have seen a man in the rooms on the upper floors, who, when discovered, would mysteriously disappear.” Cops cited two houses on West 77th Street which he stole jewelry from, at which point they noted that “he had a smooth face.”
The article also mentions a house at 52 West 87th Street which was occupied by an importer named Theodore Tiedemann and his family. One night, Tiedemann’s daughter Emma “looked into one of the rear rooms [and] saw a man with a mustache and bald head,” though the article seems to be describing one “daring thief.” Emma yelled and the man escaped with his rope ladder.
September 7, 1907: Hundreds of “hoodlums” were making trouble on the UWS, especially in Riverside Park. “The hoodlums, who range in age from boys of five and six years, to bigger fellows well up in their ‘teens” – would frequently travel up and down the avenues and in the park hurling insults at people. “Some of the gangs, according to reputable citizens, make it their business to annoy the little children.” Annoy, insult, and sometimes “assault and rob” them.
There were also reports that they would jump onto the freight trains which traveled beneath Riverside Park. “Yesterday afternoon on one train there was an even dozen of these little roughs, some of them on top of the cars howling like Indians.”
August 19, 1910: “The gang of thieves which has been entering, wrecking, and robbing houses on Riverside Drive, West End Avenue, and other fashionable streets west of Broadway in the Eighties and Nineties, the police discovered yesterday, is composed of small boys.” One of the boys was a 6-year-old who police said was used to gain entry to the houses. “He is so small, the detectives said, he could wiggle under the iron grating at the basement entrance to open the gate.” Eight boys were arrested and they were all 13 or younger. Detectives knew the culprits were youngsters because of all the unnecessary carnage the carried out, like breaking dishes and scattering “sugar and flower on the floor.”
November 30, 1913: Police seized $10,000 worth of “furs, jewelry, silks, silverware, and clothing” from an apartment at 211 West 109th Street. Two women and three men were arrested. Two of the men had nicknames, and one of those nicknames deserves further inquiry: “Henry Burtnick, 23 years old, of 161 Manhattan Avenue, known as ‘Lord Baltimore.'”
Check out our history archives.